Raining sunshine

Saturday morning I left for the mountains, the parking lot still empty and pedway quiet as it has been the last four weeks. When I returned in the evening all the parking lots were full and longboards were again rumbling up and down the pedway outside my window. Students are back on campus in full force and classes start bright and early tomorrow morning, ready or not.

Yesterday Kyron and company drove up from Phoenix with their snowmobile and snowboards and we headed up to the hills to ski and snowboard in deep untracked snow. The snowmobile wasn’t operating at full potential and couldn’t climb steep slopes so we ended up snowshoeing and skinning up a recently burned slope to get some runs in. The snow was still three feet deep and mostly covered up the stumps and the downed trees. It was old powder with the texture of sugar, but we still sank in over our knees when stepping off of snowshoes or skis.

My ski skills are still quite elementary. I managed one good telemark turn on the 30 degree slope but I’m still pretty cautious on something that steep with my clunky boots. I can control speed ok, but when turning across the fall line there is a point when the skis are pointed straight down and during this split second it’s pretty easy for me to lose control—during the switch it’s also pretty easy to get the long skis tangled up. When that happens I’m nearly buried in snow and have to extract myself one limb at a time, get back up on top of the snow, and do it all over again. Uphill skiing is still my strongest skill. It was also my first time snowmobiling in deep snow and, contrary to my misgivings of operating noisy polluting machines in pristine wilderness, I enjoyed it immensely.

Today my mission is to clean up loose ends and buckle down for a bustling semester. I have two part-time jobs and am in the process of getting a third which will give me around 30 hours of income a week. This semester I’m taking a record 19 hours of class a week, which means I should plan on 38 hours of homework but I’m hoping to squeeze it into 25 or less. With enough scholarships and paid hours a positive cash flow situation does not seem like the pipe dream it once was.

The atmosphere is a little different than a 7-5 construction job. Here I need to be groomed, well-dressed, approachable, and smiling from 8am to 9pm every day. Bad days are not an option. I can’t simply pull on an old t-shirt and slap on a Caterpillar hat to cover up a missed shower or haircut, can’t spend the day ‘looking at jobs’ in my pickup after a sleepless night.

As faithful readers may know, I’ve dabbled some in rightist productivity books and time management plans, and also explored some of the anti-establishment, anti-social-advancement theories of the left. I am familiar with several productivity systems whose primary success, I suspicion, is the profit made from selling the books. Ever the skeptic, I have over the years been able to glean a few tips about time management and organization that have enabled me to realize some of the benefits and importance of a form of planning and management, whatever it may be. Each person surely has a different solution and there can be no book or single strategy that pleases all.

Reading done in preparation for macro economics class has informed me of benefits of lowering stress by way of lowering productivity and rethinking capitalism in terms of greed and waste. This is not the way of German-descent people who tend to be productivist extremists. One of my memorable quotes from my grandfather is that he ‘has never had a job where he didn’t know what to do next.’ I think this exemplifies the productivist mindset, that working and doing is of utmost importance. Never let an opportunity pass, and go directly to the second task when finished with the first. To be idle is unthinkable.

The books say that it is better to work smarter than harder; sometimes the most productive and lowest stress action may be to do nothing at all. Ironically, most of the productivists I am acquainted with seem to have low stress levels; to slow them down would drive them crazy. My experience and background tells me I’m usually better off doing something, regardless of whether or not it is aligned with my goals.

So why do I keep piling semesters fuller and fuller? Why do I need 80 hours a week of jobs and classes? After all, my intent while attending college is to gain from the immersion experience more than the diploma, thus speed is not really in my favor. But I’ve learned a little secret: I enjoy it. Yes, I like not knowing the future in black and white terms. I enjoy challenges, actual challenges where I really question if I’ve committed to more than I can accomplish. I guess I get a sense of value, a sense of productivity if you will, from pulling off huge commitments. I’ve lived debt-free and found it a hollow existence—nothing to work for. Strange? Maybe, but a lot of people would agree with me in less words. There is more that I could write on this topic but I digress. I’m not sure how to pull the topics of stress, scheduling, and workaholism together into a conclusion, I’m not even sure where I stand in this combination, so I’ll leave this thread hang…

The little mountain town of Flagstaff is still treating me well. It’s going to be hard to leave this perfect climate and friendly community if the time ever comes. Being away from cities has benefits, I am slowly finding out. I might even get to be one of those frazzled tourists the next time I go back to DC, and I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to becoming a tourist—not going back to DC…